Polish Fulbright Scholar Working In The Hoover Library & Archives

Tuesday, January 9, 2018
Professor Jan Szumski, of the Polish Academy of Science

Professor Jan Szumski, of the Polish Academy of Science
Professor Jan Szumski of the Polish Academy of Science

Professor Jan Szumski, of the Polish Academy of Science and the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw, and a Fulbright Scholar at UC Berkeley during the current academic year, has been a frequent visitor to the Hoover Institution Library & Archives.  A Sovietologist and Russia expert, his research has recently focused on the treatment of the Polish minority in the Soviet Union beginning in 1917 and ending in 1991. A major part this study, an event virtually unknown to Western scholars, is the so-called Polish Operation of 1937, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of ethnic Poles from Belarus and Ukraine deported to Central Asia and more than 100,000 shot.

Jan Szumski was born in Soviet Belarus, in the largely Polish area wedged between the Lithuanian SSSR and Poland.  He attended Grodno State University in Belarus and received his master of arts degree in history in 2001 on basis of his thesis “The Modernization of the Soviet Army Forces in the Early 1960s.”  Soon afterward, he and his family emigrated to Poland.  He studied at the University of Warsaw and the Polish Academy of Sciences, receiving a PhD in history in 2007 on basis of his dissertation titled “Sovietization of Western Belarus in 1944–1953: Propaganda and Education in the Service of Ideology.”  The 2012 Belarusian edition of the work, published jointly by Belarussian historical institutes in Lithuania and in Poland, was confiscated during the book’s promotion by the neo-Soviet authorities and militia in Grodno.  Nonetheless, an underground edition of the book appeared two years later in Smolensk.  Prof. Szumski is individually conducting and participating in several archival research and publication projects on Polish-Soviet relations.  His five-member team has located, described, and prepared for publication more than ten thousand documents from the former archives of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party. 

Szumski has spent nearly two decades researching post-Soviet archives in Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, and Russia.  Access to the documentation in Belarus and Russia is particularly difficult because of bureaucratic inertia and the political control over use of materials.  A good example of the risks facing researchers is the case of one of Szumski’s close associates and friends, Professor Henryk Głębocki; that historian was detained and expelled from Russia a few weeks ago in “retaliation” for the removal from Poland of a known Soviet intelligence operative.

Access to the documentation in Belarus and Russia is particularly difficult because of bureaucratic inertia and the political control over use of materials.

It is not surprising then, that Hoover’s Polish guest has had a very positive experience working in the Hoover Library & Archives.  Particularly valuable for him are the microfilms from the archives of the Communist Party of the USSR and the personal archives of prominent members of the Polish Communist leadership of Poland.  Szumski is also impressed with working conditions at Hoover:  relatively fast paging of materials, modern equipment, few restrictions on copying of documents, and most of all friendly and competent professional assistance.  He is particularly grateful for the help he has received from Lora Soroka, Irena Czernichowska, and Public Services Archivist Sarah Patton.

Maciej Siekierski     Siekierski [at] stanford.edu